Georgetown has always worked hard to squeeze every last penny out of its students. Every semester, in addition to tuition, housing and a meal plan, we all pay a mandatory $100 student activities fee and a $311 membership fee to Yates Field House. If you live in a dorm or on-campus apartment, you pay an additional $80 for Internet and $300 for cable. If you are a freshman, you paid $160 for New Student Orientation.

Next week, Georgetown will ratchet up its practice of nickel-and-diming students as Yates fitness classes join the ranks of “used-to-be-free” campus services. Students will have to pay a $5 fee for each group fitness class they attend or buy a punch card which affords them classes “in bulk” at a slight discount. This type of price hike is something we would expect from a private gym like the Washington Sports Club (where annual membership costs about $1000), not a student-minded gym like Yates. On its Web site, Yates justifies the new fees as necessary to continue offering “the latest and greatest in group fitness programming.” These fitness classes lie at the core of the GUWellness initiative, a new program launched in 2007 to provide members of the Georgetown community with “tools, resources and support to achieve their own wellness goals.”

We applaud the desire to improve programming at Yates. What we do not agree with is making these improvements at the expense of the students who will no longer be able to afford to benefit from them. With the new fees, a student who attends fitness classes every week during the school year will pay up to $441 (if they buy the season pass for classes) for their Yates membership. If this trend continues, the university should consider adding financial planners to the ranks of its wellness initiative to help students cope with the ever-increasing pot of hidden fees that come with a Georgetown education.

Fitness classes run the gamut from yoga and “ButtsNGuts” to aqua aerobics and deep-water instruction in McCarthy Pool. Historically, students have had free and unlimited access to these classes as part of Yates’ efforts to cater to a diverse cross section of the student body.

The bill for these improvements should not be placed squarely on the shoulders of students. Instead of using fees to improve Yates, the university should look at alternative budget sources. This may require some creativity but would be well worth the effort.

There is a bigger issue at hand than the new charges at Yates. Georgetown needs to find a better alternative to passing costs on to students. Frankly, the principle of myriad small fees in addition to the enormous tuition in a struggling economy is insulting. If we do not speak out against the new fees in Yates, the university will have precedent to extend fees to other essential campus services. Your student bills will start to look more like a hotel bill with fees for things like media adapters and wireless Internet. If we slowly move toward a fee-based billing system, where will it end?

Yates need to go back to the drawing board on this issue. It needs to look for better ways to improve while also giving students’ wallets a break.

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